Farmer's market sprouts new roots

By Sharon Ginn, Times Correspondent

Published Wednesday, May 6, 2009

SOUTH TAMPA — It is hard now to picture a modest farmer's market on the corner of Swann and Howard avenues, where retail plazas and a medical building have cropped up in the past decade, transforming it into one of South Tampa's busiest corners.

But that's where John Sansone spent 13 years selling fresh produce and flowers to the locals. His Hyde Park Farmer's Market was a source for many loyal South Tampa homeowners, until the day in 2002 when he sat in the new Panera Bread across the street and watched as it was torn down.

Seven years later, after a boom and a bust, Sansone is back.

He has set up shop again not too far down the street, in an old Chevron station at the corner of Swann and MacDill Avenue on the north edge of Parkland Estates. The gas station has been vacant for more than two years. The property owners have had it on the market, and even had the tanks removed, but so far, no deal.

So Sansone has leased the building and is turning it into the Tampa Bay Farmers' Market, which will be much like the original. He hopes to have it open this weekend, just in time for last-minute Mother's Day bouquets.

"We missed the neighborhood," Sansone said. "We were there quite a few years, and it just seemed like Hyde Park (real estate) was red-hot at the time."

Sansone actually sold his property at Swann and MacDill in the 1990s — "I had 12 offers on the property in a short period of time" — and kept the farmer's market open for eight more years until the new owner cut a deal for the medical building. (It seemed more palatable than a McDonald's, Sansone told the St. Petersburg Times in 2002.)

Produce is part of Sansone's heritage. His family has been in the wholesale banana business for more than 100 years, and owns farms up north that provide pumpkins, Christmas trees and Easter lilies for church and school fundraisers all over Tampa.

He has stuck to the wholesale business in recent years, but figured it was a good time to jump back into retail, now that local produce is coveted again. Many of the fruits and vegetables will come from Plant City and other farms within a few hours' drive.

"People go to Publix GreenWise and their tomatoes are $3.99 a pound," he said. "We'll be able to offer some good pricing, a lot of fresh quality."

Sansone's sons, Anthony and John Jr., will work with him, marking his family's fifth generation selling produce and fresh flowers. The gas station's fading blue roof has been painted a bright terra-cotta, the exterior walls a deep vegetable green. Other than the need for some repairs and a refrigeration system, the old building was already well suited for an old-fashioned market, he said.

"It was very easy to transform," Sansone said.

New South Tampa med spa opens

Skin NV has freshly opened at 4315 W Bay to Bay Blvd.

The med spa offers Botox, fillers, laser treatment, peels and consultations from plastic surgeon and hand surgeon Scott Gargasz, who will oversee the clinic, according to a press release. The NV stands for Nouveau Visage or "new face." Skin NV is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and evenings by appointment.

Information from Times files was used in this report. Know something that should be everybody's business? Call (813) 226-3394 or e-mail

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